- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

STRASBOURG, FRANCE (AP) - Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of 800 to 900 people in Strasbourg on Thursday as the city in eastern France, host of the 60th anniversary NATO summit, readied for the arrival of world leaders.

Police said the crowd broke up after the tear gas was fired and calm largely prevailed in the neighborhood of Neuhoff, in the south part of the city near the German border. Elsewhere, in a separate incident, hooded demonstrators broke the window of a truck used by a French television crew.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have descended on Strasbourg and two southwest German towns to protest the cross-border summit of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, which begins Friday.

Twenty-eight world leaders will attend the two-day summit, including President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In a bid to prevent violence, France has temporarily reinstated border controls with its immediate neighbors for the meeting.

Small squads of riot police marched through as protesters wrapped in rainbow peace flags distributed fliers and chatted with passers-by.

Gregorio Yong, a Colombian activist, said NATO was “a synonym of war.” Daniel Mouray, a protester wrapped in a rainbow flag with “peace” said he expected little from the summit.

“We want the wars to stop and for the Americans to go back home,” he said.

German authorities estimate that up to 25,000 protesters will take part in several demonstrations in the German cities of Baden-Baden and Kehl, while France’s interior minister has suggested 30,000 to 40,000 could show up in Strasbourg, where a camp has been set up to house demonstrators.

German and French police have said 2,000 to 3,000 members of the violence-prone “black block” _ so-called for the black clothes and hoods they wear _ are expected. On the outskirts of Strasbourg, about 1,000 protesters, some of them in black, gathered Thursday evening under the watchful eye of police in riot gear.

Some 15,000 German police _ including 31 riot squads _ and 9,000 French police will be on hand for the summit.

Protest organizers have called for peaceful demonstrations to highlight their complaints, including anti-war, anti-globalization, anti-capitalist and disarmament platforms.

The German chapter of the left-wing Attac group, which is calling for the withdrawal of all NATO troops from Afghanistan and an end to the military alliance, climate protection and a “just world economy,” was organizing conferences, camps, demonstrations and blockades.

“The world leaders will be confronted with our protest and our call for a peaceful world,” said Attac spokeswoman Gudrun Reiss. “We’re calling for massive participation.”

The Berlin Anti-fascist Left group said it was sending at least 10 busloads of demonstrators.

After an evening protest Thursday in Baden-Baden, the main demonstration begins Friday at noon in Kehl. The activists plan to march across the Rhine river into Strasbourg, with another protest planned for Saturday.

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